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DIY Garden Trellis: Rustic Wooden Backdrops For Your Climbing Beauties

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There are many varieties of climbing plants to choose from, but unfortunately most people have limited space or structures to grow these rambling type vegetations upon. And let’s face it, arbors and trellises can get awfully expensive very quickly.

Personally, I love the height and interest twining vines and climbing roses give to a blooming garden bed, and try to include them wherever I can despite my almost non-existent garden budget. But it doesn’t take a lot of effort, time, money, or imagination to put together interesting and artistic looking trellises to allow your climbers to ramble into new heights.

Whereas climbing roses often need a little bit of training to learn which direction to go, most annual and perennial vines will gladly sprawl over anything and everything both vertical and horizontal if allowed to. Currently I have morning glories creating an interesting carpet in my flower beds searching for a place to climb (such as old daylily stalks) since I haven’t mounted my trellis yet.

Follow along to see what sort of material you need to create your own trellis for your garden climbers. I’ve included two different looks (a tree shaped trellis, and a more traditional fan shape) using the same techniques, so let your imagination take flight!

What You Will Need

I literally had everything I needed in my garage in order to put together 2 different trellises this summer except the hardware to mount to a wall. This project literally cost me less than $5. Be sure to look around at your existing tools and materials to create your own unique, rustic structure.

      • Old branches
        -Don’t toss those woody branches, stems, or suckers you trim off your trees. If you don’t have any of your own, ask around your neighborhood, or friends if they have been doing any tree trimming, or heavy pruning. Another place to hit up is local dumps. Many allow you to dump branches for chipping, and you can go pick up a few for free. One man’s trash, another’s treasure!
      • Reciprocating saw (small hand saw will do as well)
      • 14 – 16 gauge galvanized wire
      • Pliers
Optional Needs

Let’s Begin!

    Step 1: Pick Your Branches

    Straight branches are a no-brainer, especially those long sucker type varieties that were left to grow for too long (whoops!). These are perfect for creating the more traditional fan, or screen type trellis.

    More curvy, forked branches have tons of possibilities but take a little more imagination- especially since you are going to have to take your somewhat ‘3D plane’ and turn it into something a bit more 2D in order to fit against a wall. Hard to believe that this mess had everything it took to create a neat tree shaped structure! But once you start to simplify your branches in the next step, your possibilities become more clear.

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      Choose strong branches that aren’t brittle or compromised to work with. Also look for length since you can always cut them down if you need too. Don’t worry about their unruliness to start, I’ll show you how to simplify the branch too.

        Step 2: Cut, Trim, Simplify

        You’ll want to cut everything from main stems, and remove all small, brittle branches that just clutter up your materials. At first glance this branch is pretty unruly, but once I started trimming… it’s shape and use became clear.

        Once you’ve chosen the main branch(es) you want to work with, cut all side branches off with your reciprocating saw so you are left with one long, bare branch. Depending on what you are thinking concerning the shape of your trellis, you can also strip the remaining large branches you just cut off to create multiple pieces for your structure.

        If you are looking to use the curves and branching of shorter pieces you trimmed off, just cut any spare branches that head out in angles that wouldn’t sit well against a wall, or that shoot out too far forward. Also break off any smaller, weak pieces.

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          Simplify your branches as much as possible and leave only the main, stronger lengths. They are part of a structure to show off your climbers, and are not the main showpiece itself (although they look pretty cool!).

            Step 3 (optional): Notch Attachment Spots

            Depending on where and how you are going to attach your trellis to a permanent foundation, you may want to notch where you are going to place hardware. It’s very easy to cover up these areas once you begin to ‘build’ the structure, and you want to be sure to keep them open, especially if you have only a few main points that will lie flat along a wall.

            I simply placed a shallow cut along my main branch where I want to use conduit straps to attach to the side of the house.
            Once you’ve chosen the main branch(es) you want to work with, cut all side branches off with your reciprocating saw so you are left with one long, bare branch. Depending on what you are thinking concerning the shape of your trellis, you can also strip the remaining large branches you just cut off to create multiple pieces for your structure.

            If you are looking to use the curves and branching of shorter pieces you trimmed off, just cut any spare branches that head out in angles that wouldn’t sit well against a wall, or that shoot out too far forward. Also break off any smaller, weak pieces.

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              If you do use this step, be sure to keep from covering it up!

                Step 4: Determine Trellis Shape

                Since you’ve already gotten an idea in your head about what you might like, start to lay out the pieces on the ground. This is a great time to see if you have any angular pieces that you missed while trimming, or if something just isn’t looking right.

                Think of this step as a simple puzzle. You need to find how your branches ‘fit’ together to create the look you desire. Let the shapes and curves of the branches influence your ideas and play with their placement until you find what you like best. I honestly did not set out to create a tree shaped trellis – I was looking for a more “rectangular screen” shape with some natural curves similar to my first fan attempt. But once I started to lay them out in a different manner, I knew I had to go with something new. Have fun with this step!

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                  The space you are thinking about placing this trellis is important. You may want to take some main branches and see how they fit into the area of placement. Once I start to piece mine together permanently, I like to do this multiple times to see if I should add more, or even simplify further.

                    Step 5: Attach Pieces Together Snugly

                    Once you are happy with your layout, use your wire and pliers to attach each piece together. I like a thicker wire because you can twist it tight without it breaking easily, and it won’t rust through anytime quickly. I happened to have a bunch of baling wire (14 gauge) available and just used that.

                    I suggest tying each branch in two places to keep it from shifting once you are done. As an outdoor structure it is going to be exposed to elements and critters, be sure to use the stronger sides of your branches to tie on.

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                      Keep in mind, something is going to grow upon these supports so you want to make sure they sturdy – for your plants sake.

                        Step 6: Place Your Trellis

                        Depending on you location, you can use a variety of ways to mount your trellis into place. For my fan trellis I left some longer sticks to stake into the ground, and then used some more wire to attach it to the pergola in order to allow the vines access to the above structure.

                        My tree will be placed in a southern facing perennial bed later this fall once things have gone dormant- since I do not want to accidentally interrupt any of the current growth in trying to reach the spot. Because of the height of this trellis (12 feet) and the sturdiness of the center branch, I am using inexpensive, but heavy duty, conduit straps to secure it to the house wall.

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                          No matter your choice, be sure to have the trellis well secured to keep it from blowing over, or being pulled down by the weight of your vines.

                            So What Are You Waiting For?

                            This is seriously one of the cheapest and most simple ways to help add vertical interest and depth to your garden. This is a quick project as well: if you have only an hour or two of time you could build either of these, or something similar. And you no longer have excuses as to why you cannot purchase the climbing roses or vines of your perennial dreams! Who wants to buy a trellis when you could spend your money on plants instead?

                            Where to start? Find yourself some sturdy branches and let your imagination take flight! Share your pictures and ideas below! Questions? We’ll get those answered for you! And as always, please share!

                              About The Author

                              Danielle McLeod

                              Danielle McLeod cuts a tragic figure in the High School English classroom teaching literature by day, and moonlighting as a writer and graphic artist by night. Published in a variety of travel magazines, and now a blog, Danielle enjoys coming up with home and garden projects to complete with her two young boys. A native of Michigan, she resides in Southeastern New Mexico with her variety of horses, poultry, and variable mix of rescue dogs (there’s a cat or two in there as well). In her free time she enjoys travel, art, photography, and a good book!

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